The Resurrection Body

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

Nothing colors life like the knowledge that “all die.”  Therefore, nothing becomes more precious to many than the Bible’s promise of eternal life.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are among the most proven facts of history.  Since Christians know this event actually took place, they can be equally certain that the souls of the believers will be reunited with Christ when He comes for them.

There is hope, not only for the souls of those who died in Christ, but also for their bodies.  The bodies of the Christians who die will be resurrected just before living Christians are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  Jesus Christ at this very moment is sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3). At a future time, He will leave this position and return to the earth to fulfill His promise to take the believers with Him to a place that He has prepared for them.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn. 14:1-3)

The Dead Shall Rise First

Just how are the dead raised, and what kind of body will they have?  These are questions that Paul was asked by the Corinthian church.

“But someone will say, How are the dead raised up and with what body do they come? How foolish!  What is sown is not made alive except it die.” (1 Cor. 15:35-36) 

Belief in the resurrection is like belief in spring seed-planting and autumn harvest.  Although it cannot be completely understood, it is very real. When planted, the seed actually dies before the life within springs out. This is God’s way of teaching us that physical death comes before real life begins.

The Resurrection Body is Superior to the One that Dies

As God has the power to create the physical bodies used by those of us in Adam’s human race, He also has the power to create superior bodies for those who are connected to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but a mere grain-perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.  All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  There is a natural body, and there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:37-44)

A shiny corn seed, when planted into the ground, does not remain a shiny corn seed. When it breaks open, it produces a very beautiful plant.  God has designed a beautiful body to take the place of the Christian’s physical body that dies.  The new resurrected body will be a perfect body. Why?  Because God is the designer!  If it pleases Him, then it will be perfect.

The new resurrection body will also be the only one of its kind. To each seed God gives its own plant. To every body God will give a unique resurrection body. Our resurrection bodies will reflect the uniqueness that our physical bodies had while upon the earth.  In the heavenly realm, like on earth, there will be no one exactly like you. 

God has obviously made the flesh of man different from that of fish, and the fish different from the birds.  Likewise, He will give to the resurrected body a new flesh, unlike any that we know of in this physical world.  It will be a flesh designed for eternity.  It will be a body crafted by God for a different world.

Each new body will shed light upon the creative genius of God.  Paul said that there is one glory of the sun, one of the moon, and another of the stars. So what about our heavenly bodies?  They will be far superior to those connected to this world.

Paul contrasts the physical body connected to Adam the first and that which is connected to the second Adam.

“So also is the resurrection of the dead.  The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44)

Our earthly bodies will die and be planted in corruption, destined to physically decay. However, the new body will be raised never to decay again. It will be an eternal body. It will be sown in dishonor, disgrace, and humiliation; but it will be raised to shed light upon the One who created it. It is to be sown a natural body but raised in power and glory with no limitations.

A Body like Jesus Christ

“And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, earthy. The second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1 Cor. 15:45-49)

The first man, Adam, was of the earth, and thus called earthy. He produced a civilization after his “earthy” kind.  It is a civilization born physically alive but spiritually dead. It is born in union with old Adam, using physical seed, cursed in Adam and possesses a strong Adamic nature. It is part of an old birth, old physical life, old physical body, old relationships, old earth and an old heaven with an earthy citizenship.

But the second Man is the Lord from heaven. He is at this very moment producing a heavenly civilization after His kind. This second Adam’s new civilization is reborn in union with the body of Jesus Christ, made spiritually alive and possesses a new nature given by God. It is produced by spiritual seed, marked by a new spiritual birth and new life, and is destined to possess a new heavenly body, heavenly life, heavenly relationships, and to live upon a new earth and heaven.

By faith in Jesus Christ, believers have become citizens of a new world. 

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

Those Who are Alive and Remain

“Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

What about Christians who are alive on this earth when Christ returns?  Paul says clearly that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1 Cor. 15:50) 

The dead “in Christ” will be raised first and then the living will be instantaneously transformed. Like the dead, the living will exchange their physical bodies for their glorified bodies; but this will occur while they are physically alive.  

Christians today call this mysterious transformation “the Rapture.”  Though the word “Rapture” does not occur in Scripture, the truth that it represents certainly does. 

“Those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.  And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17) 

This supernatural transformation is the believer’s great hope. We pray that we will be alive when the Lord returns in order that we may be instantly caught up. But either way, whether by death or by life, we will all be changed and we will all be with the Lord.

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your sting? Oh Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

The tragedy of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden and the seeming gloom of Calvary’s cross were both reversed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death came through the disobedience of the first Adam, but life came through the obedience of the last Adam (Rom. 5:18-19).  Upon faith in Christ, life comes to the believer along with victory over the grave and the promise of a new beginning (1 Cor. 15:23).